Six unexpected city breaks to take in 2021

As years go, it’s safe to say 2020 was more than a little unexpected. But with the world poised to open its doors once again, 2021 is the time to seize your suitcase and holiday like you’ve never holidayed before. To get you started, we’ve rounded up our pick of the seven most unexpected city breaks – from hidden hotel gems in your favourite cities to off-the-radar destinations guaranteed to knock your socks off. Take a look and prepare to be inspired.

  1. Flemings Hotel Mayfair – London

From its crop of hidden gardens and experiential restaurants to thriving pop-up bars and street food markets, London is a city that’s full of surprises. Get to know the nation’s capital in style from Flemings Hotel Mayfair, an ultra luxe, five-star retreat in the city’s glitziest neighbourhood. Tucked away down a quiet mews just a stone’s throw from the glamorous boutiques of Bond Street, this unassuming pad plays its cards close to its chest, but walk through the doors and you’ll find a positively palatial space oozing old-world charm at every turn. Along with a suite of elegantly-appointed rooms, there’s a grand restaurant serving beautifully-presented dishes, a sleek cocktail bar for post-sightseeing sips and a velvet-clad lounge where a decadent afternoon tea is served daily.

Horse guards avenue London. Credit: iStock/CHUNYIP WONG
  1. The Naka Island Luxury Collection Resort And Spa – Phuket

A kaleidoscope of colour, culture and culinary wonder, Phuket is sure to dazzle those seeking a city break with a difference. Experience the dizzy whirl of this action-packed metropolis in true five-star style at The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa. Set just off the coast of the city on a private island paradise, you’ll have front-row access to its dreamlike white-sand beaches cradled by limestone cliffs along with a string of fine dining destinations, a luxurious spa and even a waterfront bar. Once you’ve arrived, we wouldn’t blame you for never wanting to leave your boutique bubble but should the city lights tempt you, you’re just a quick speedboat ride away from the bustling markets, lively bars and top-notch nightlife that Phuket is so famous for. Don’t pass up the chance to stroll along Thalan Road, an iconic street lined with brightly-hued Sino-Portugues buildings. 

Phuket old town. Credit: Getty/galitskaya
  1. Grupotel Gran Via 678 – Barcelona

With its enchanting blend of city-meets-beach glamour, non-stop nightlife and more cultural clout than you can shake a croquette at, Barcelona has long been a city break favourite, and for good reason. From the grandiose La Sagrada Familia to the sprawling Las Ramblas, this cosmopolitan gem is a treasure trove of art, architecture and ancient history. While the city has so much to offer, not all hotels are created equal and Grupotel Gran Via 678 certainly stands out from its competitors – showcasing an unexpected blend of substance and style. Occupying a prime spot in the heart of the city, right by the Plaza Catalunya, guests will be treated to a hidden outdoor pool and solarium, along with a fantastic restaurant and terrace plus a sumptuous spa with a Turkish bath, sauna and massage facilities to name a few. 

Las Ramblas Barcelona. Credit: iStock/Nikada
  1. Fairmont Ajman – Ajman

Ajman might not be top of your list when it comes to city breaks, but this Middle Eastern treasure really packs a punch in the culture stakes. In contrast to Dubai’s glitzy skyscrapers, Ajman is a decidedly more muted (but no less impressive) affair than its ostentatious neighbour, with a string of historic attractions that are sure to surprise and delight visitors. Most notably the Ajman Museum, set in an 18-century fort and The Dhow Yard, a sprawling boat-building space where iconic wooden dhows are lovingly constructed by skilled craftsmen. In the heart of it all sits Fairmont Ajman, a five-star stay with all the polish and prowess you’d expect from this stellar hotel magnate. Boasting five international restaurants and two bars, a golf club and spacious swimming pool, you’ll be living in the lap of luxury here. Wind down further at Willow Stream Spa, a serene hideaway that takes inspiration from its sea-facing setting with a menu of calming treatments sure to leave you feeling zen.

Ajman. Credit: iStock/Stanislav Sablin
  1. Hotel Skt Annae – Copenhagen

Characterised by colourful harbourside houses, eco-friendly architecture, and of course, its famed network of labyrinthine canals studded with traditional barges, the coastal city of Copenhagen is all about expecting the unexpected. From its sleek collection of high fashion boutiques to 16th-century castles and open-air hot tubs to design museums, there’s something surprising around every corner. Soak it all in from the ultra modern surrounds of Hotel Skt. Annae, a boutique hotel set right in the thick of the action. Showcasing pared-back rooms dressed in muted grey hues, bicycle rental services and a trendy roof terrace to boot, this is one seriously stylish abode. After a day spent flitting between the sights, make the most of the on-site restaurant and bar where guests can enjoy signature cocktails and simple Danish dishes in a light and airy setting.

Nyhavn Copenhagen. Credit: iStock/scanrail
  1. Hyperion Hotel Dresden am Schloss – Dresden

While most flock to Berlin’s nightclubs, Munich’s beer halls or Frankfurt’s museums, the often overlooked Dresden in eastern Germany is where it’s at in 2021. The capital of Saxony, this history-strewn city is best known for its line-up of lavish architecture; from the Baroque-style Frauenkirche to the three-tier Semperoper opera house and the gallery-laden Zwinger, a manor house flanked by elegant gardens to the restored Dresden Castle one of the city’s oldest buildings. Soak up the culture for yourself from Hyperion Hotel Dresden am Schloss, a stylish hotel with interiors inspired by its historic setting. Look forward to delicious buffet breakfasts and a la carte dinners in the spacious restaurant or a range of handcrafted drinks in the cosy bar. Hidden in the 15th-century vaulted cellar is the piece de resistance – a tranquil wellness area and fitness centre set against a backdrop of original stone walls.

Dresden skyline. Credit: iStock/TommL